There are a lot of things that someone is allowed to do in public in India, however kissing a girl is certainly off the list. Kissing in public is placed under the header of immoral acts for the majority of Indians.
“Kissing in public does not mean that the police will arrest you or give a fine, however it is not accepted by the society, it is still a taboo,” said Bharat Gehlot from India.
Section 294(a) of the Indian Penal Code states that “whoever, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.” The problem in this section is that it does not clarify what it is considered as obscene in India.
“People don’t study the law and don’t know if there is such a law or not, so they interpret what they hear from others in the way they want,” said Patil.
“It’s a tradition which people follow for 2.000 years and the problem is that they can’t change their minds in just one night. However, as we are living in the era of globalization people are more open-minded than in the past and maybe something can change,” said Saikat Chatterjee from India.
Among those people who are fighting for a change against the moral policy in India, are the members of the Kiss of Love movement, started in October 2014. It was initiated from Kochi, India as a facebook campaign. A leaked video showed a couple kissing and hugging in a hotel. The attack of a group of vandals that later arrived and attacked the Down town cafe in Kozhikode as a sign of opposition against the hotel that was ‘hiding’ such immoral acts, constituted the campaign’s starting point.
During the five months of its existence the movement has received heavy criticism from political and religious groups in India.
“The problem of kissing in public falls under a moral policy in India and that means that you have to follow certain rules. It all begins from people’s mindset. Most religious people believe that women are not free in terms of sexuality. The problem is that those who are against the act of kissing in public also support the idea that males should tell women what they should or should not do and this is unbearable. So criticism is not only about the act of kissing in the public,” said Sukhesh Vadavil, Kiss of Love Bangalore spokesperson.
“It’s not just about women in particular. It’s a problem mixed with politics. There are a lot of differences in India and politicians take advantage of these differences and create problems among minorities in India,” said Aarthi Ramesh from India.
“The right-wing has to understand that “culture” is not static, it’s something that keeps changing according to the financial and social lifestyle of society. Next time before you start talking about ‘Indian Culture’, please spend a few minutes reviewing history. Some historians claim that the lip-to-lip kiss was originated in India,” said Rahul Pasupalan, the founder of the Kiss of Love campaign.
A month ago, Deedi Damodaran, a 46 year old Indian lecturer who works for the Institute of Human Resources Development in India, was asked by her employer to explain why she was taking part in the Kiss of Love campaign and why she was kissing her husband in public.
“I don’t think there’s any reason for me to apologize. I didn’t do anything that violates the law,” explained Damodaran.
And as my interviewees made it clear that here we are not talking about laws but about culture I could not help but wonder. We have seen a lot of times people kissing in Bollywood movies and as cinema is also part of our culture, do Indians embrace these types of movies?
“These movies are also criticized; however people don’t take it so much seriously as it something totally different. Those people do not suffer from a social stigma in their real lives even if they kiss in public simply because they are celebrities. They live in a different world, in a rich world. And people know that they cannot compare themselves with celebrities,” said Gehlot.
Despite the fact that inequalities are part of India’s societies, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of financial situation, there are some people who are optimistic about the future and believe that this time something can change.
“I definitely believe that all our efforts will change people’s mindset one day as it is crazy that you can kiss your mother or your father in public but not your wife,” said Vadavil.
“We need to learn – and teach – the culture of respecting the privacy of couples even on streets and parks. Couples kissing each other aren’t anyone’s business. Children, too, aren’t corrupted by seeing adults kiss. They are corrupted by watching dads beat up mothers, by silently suffering sex abuse, by a culture that teaches them that women should be controlled by men. When kiss is prohibited, kissing should be the mode of protest,” said Pasupalan.
By Valia Papadopoulou